Salon Archive

Issue: 100

Centenary issue

Attentive readers will note that this is Salon’s centenary issue — at least, we think it is: as John Coales, FSA, pointed out last week, Salon’s numerically challenged editor has been known to send out successive issues with the same number (two numbered 97 and none numbered 98). Apologies to all who were confused by that!

Forthcoming meetings

21 October: ‘The Birdoswald Section of Hadrian’s Wall: recent work’, by Tony Wilmott, FSA

28 October: Ballot, with exhibits.

Dr Jane Geddes, FSA, will speak about ‘Dendrochronology and the Door at Hadstock’ in which she will show that dendro dating has confirmed the eleventh-century date for the north door of Hadstock church, in Suffolk, making this (probably) the oldest door in active use in the country. Recently discovered antiquarian sources also reveal that its decoration, apart from the notorious ‘human skin’, was significant.

Our Librarian, Bernard Nurse, will then present ‘a newly discovered wax portrait of Sir John Boileau, Vice-President of the Society 1858—67’. Sir John Boileau (1794—1869) is described in the recently published Oxford Dictionary of National Biography as having been a wealthy antiquary, who wrote mostly on Roman archaeology and Norfolk history. He lived at Ketteringham Hall and purchased the Roman fort at Burgh Castle to save it from destruction. The wax portrait came from the family and is previously unrecorded. The artist, R C Lucas (1800—83), is considered to have been one of the best of the Victorian wax modellers; over the last 100 years or so the Society has been given six of the portraits he made of various Fellows.

Boston meeting

The 2004 Annual Meeting of the North American Fellows will take place at the Union Oyster House, Boston, on Friday 5 November 2004, at 8.15 pm, preceded by drinks and dinner, starting at 6pm. Guests are welcome and full details are available from our Secretary for the Americas, Norman Hammond, FSA.

The main business of the meeting will be to hear a paper given by Professor Martha Sharp Joukowsky, FSA, Fellow and Professor Emerita and Director, Brown University, Petra Great Temple Excavations, on Twelve Years of Excavation at The Great Temple, Petra, Jordan. Martha describes the Great Temple as ‘one of the major archaeological and architectural components of metropolitan Petra, Jordan. It is the largest free-standing building yet excavated in the city. The 7,560-square-metre precinct comprises a Propylaeum (monumental entryway), a Lower Temenos and monumental east and west stairways, which in turn lead to the Upper Temenos, the sacred enclosure for the Temple proper. The slide presentation will be in three sections: the excavations, our restoration, and the phasing of the site.’

News of Fellows

We congratulate Ian Burrow, FSA, who was installed as President of the American Cultural Resources Association (ACRA for short) at its annual meeting in early October. ACRA is the voice of the private cultural resource management companies who now carry out the bulk of archaeological and historic architectural survey and research in the United States. ACRA is an active participant in historic preservation issues in Washington DC, seeking to support and strengthen federal laws and regulations protecting cultural resources of all kinds. For more information about ACRA, see its website at www.acra-crm.org. Since moving to the States from England in 1988, Ian has been Vice-President of Hunter Research, Inc, a historical resources consulting firm based in Trenton, New Jersey. He says that his former experience in British public archaeology will be of value in making ACRA’s voice heard on Capitol Hill and beyond.

Our Fellow Giles Worsley (Architecture Critic, the Daily Telegraph) is one of seventeen people honoured this year by the Royal Institute of British Architects by the award of an Honorary Fellowship. Such Fellowships are awarded by the RIBA Council to men and women from a wide range of backgrounds — including construction, landscape architecture, politics, the arts and the media — to reward the particular contributions they have made to architecture in its broadest sense: its promotion, administration and outreach, its role in building more sustainable communities and its role in the education of future generations. Fellowships were also awarded to Mark Thompson, BBC Director General, and Rachel Whiteread, sculptor.

Anthony Harding, who has spent no less than thirty-one years at the University of Durham (the last fourteen of them in the Chair there) has finally been persuaded to catch a train south — he is now the holder of an ‘Anniversary Chair’ in the University of Exeter. Anthony says that leaving Durham and the north east after so long was a wrench, but that he is looking forward to getting to know the archaeology of the south west.

One final observation on the recent profile of Beatrice de Cardi, FSA, in British Archaeology has come from a Fellow who observed that Mike Pitts, FSA, gave the game away by revealing that Bea had celebrated her 90th birthday this June. Contrast this with the elegant way in which Rosemary Cramp, our former President, dealt with the question of Bea’s age in her Presidential Address last year, when summing up her lifetime’s achievements and awarding her the Society’s Medal: ‘At the beginning of this year [2003]’, Rosemary said, ‘she was once more working in the museum at Ras al-Khaimah, when it was visited by the ruler, and a journalist in his entourage asked her age. Although Beatrice considered this an ill-mannered question, she did reply accurately, and at that point the ruler patted her head — only a ruler would dare to do that — and as for her age that is surely an irrelevancy for a working archaeologist.’

Obituaries

Salon 99 briefly reported the sad news of the death of our Fellow Patrick Wormald on 29 September at the premature age of 59. The following extracts come from his obituary, written by our Fellow James Campbell, and published in The Independent.

‘Patrick Wormald was a distinguished historian of Anglo-Saxon England … [he] was driven by an almost messianic mission to convert everyone to appreciate the importance of the Anglo-Saxons. They had established all that was best and lasting in England, he argued. The chapters he wrote on Bede, Offa and Alfred for James Campbell’s The Anglo-Saxons are his most accessible publication.

‘In the 1980s Wormald developed his ambition to write a definitive history of Anglo-Saxon law. The History of English Law before the Time of Edward I, by the eminent Victorians, F Pollock and F W Maitland, had been weak on the Anglo-Saxons. Pollock … had no first-hand knowledge of the texts and he thought the Anglo-Saxons were barbarians. Wormald felt a special affinity for Maitland, who stopped Pollock writing anything more. In 1999 he persuaded the dean and chapter to install a commemorative plaque to Maitland in Poets’ Corner at Westminster Abbey. This was solemnly inaugurated in the presence of lawyers and historians.

‘Like Maitland, Wormald undertook a massive two-volume history, of which the first volume, The Making of English Law: King Alfred to the Twelfth Century, was published in 1999. This work required a reassessment of all the manuscripts of the law codes and was therefore subtitled: “Legislation and its Limits”. Likewise in 1999 Wormald’s collected articles were republished in an edition entitled Legal Culture in the Early Medieval West: Law as Text, Image and Experience. The subtitle is significant here, as Wormald contended that law codes were not enforceable like modern legislation.

‘The second volume of The Making of English Law, entitled From God’s Law to Common Law, has not been published. This promised to tie Anglo-Saxon law to post-Norman Conquest law and, in particular, to show how the control of crime has a continuous history from the Anglo-Saxons through to the “common law” of the medieval and Tudor period. It is hoped that this volume exists among Wormald’s papers in a publishable state.

‘For the last ten years of his life Wormald fought repeatedly and resourcefully against the mood-swings of depression and alcoholism. In addition to doctors and therapies, he drew consolation from his Catholicism, the “old faith” as he called it, which had inspired Bede and engendered the history he loved.’

Our Fellow Professor Michael Grant also died on 29 September 2004, at the age of 89. His obituary in the Telegraph described him as ‘a don at Cambridge, Professor of Humanity (Latin) at Edinburgh, and vice-chancellor at the Universities of Khartoum and Queen’s, Belfast … best known as a prolific populariser of ancient history who published nearly fifty books on the Greeks, Romans and early Christianity.’

Grant, the obituary said, ‘was always a lucid and erudite writer, who took the view that a study of the classical world was both "infinitely worth studying in its own right, without any consideration of modern analogies" and also that "without Latin, people are handicapped because they do not understand their past, and cannot therefore effectively plan their futures".

‘This attitude did nothing to impede his range, nor his appeal to the ordinary reader as well as the academic professional. As well as scholarly publications on the coinage of Rome (he was a distinguished numismatist), he produced biographies of Julius Caesar, Nero, Herod, Cleopatra, Jesus, St Peter and St Paul; accounts of the literature, history, art, mythology and social life of Greece and Rome; and found time to examine the Middle Ages and ancient Israel.

Books such as The Twelve Caesars (1975) and Gladiators (which was reissued recently after Ridley Scott's film) sold well in Penguin editions and enabled him to boast of a position as "one of the very few freelances in the field of ancient history" and, for the last thirty years or so, to work from his home in Italy.’

Anglo-Saxon skull surgery

English Heritage archaeologists announced last week that they had discovered evidence of trepanning on the skull of a forty-year-old man from Wharram Percy who had died in the tenth century. The patient had been savagely hit with a blunt instrument, probably a farming tool, which inflicted a severe fracture on the left side of his skull. An Anglo-Saxon surgeon, working around the year 960, lifted a large patch of scalp measuring 100mm by 90mm (4in by 3.5in), removed broken skull splinters and remodelled the edges of the remaining healthy bone in such a way that the gap in the skull successfully closed over with scar tissue, while the patient lived for many years after the operation, finally dying of unrelated causes.

Simon Mays, skeletal biologist at English Heritage's Centre for Archaeology, said of the find: ‘This skull predates medieval written accounts of such surgery by at least 100 years. It is a world away from notions that Anglo-Saxon healers were all about spells and potions.’ Trepanning was a procedure known to ancient Greek and Roman physicians but was assumed to have been lost in the West after the fall of Rome and the loss of the library at Alexandria in the seventh century AD.

Fragments of the skull were excavated in 1978 but it was only after they were reconstructed that the details emerged about what had happened to him, said Simon Mays. The man was buried in the village churchyard, which was reserved for local peasants (whose lowly status was confirmed by nutritional evidence). It surprised the archaeologists that such sophisticated surgery was available even to the poorest classes of medieval society.

‘Medical skills were largely reserved for the elite and physicians attracted widespread cynicism,’ Dr Mays said. ‘William of Malmesbury, writing in the twelfth century, relates that they were often unscrupulous and unmoved at reducing patients and their families to bankruptcy to pay fees. So the treatment handed out to Wharram’s peasant doesn’t square at all with our knowledge of the period. It seems most probable that the operation was performed by an itinerant healer of unusual skill, whose medical acumen was handed down through oral tradition.’

Last words on metal detecting

Many thanks to all those Fellows who wrote to Salon last week with witty comments on the BritArch debate — mostly proffering support for Salon’s attempt to remain equidistant from both parties to the discussion, but, like Andrew Fitzpatrick, reminding the editor of the famous Confucian saying (actually coined by ‘The Two Ronnies’) that: ‘man who walk in middle of road get hit by chariots going both ways’.

On a more serious note, Helen Geake noted that: ‘One of your correspondents in Salon 99 "highlighted an inconsistency in public policy, which prevents developers from damaging or destroying the nation's non-renewable archaeological resources but places no similar restraints on metal detectorists". To those of us who work in the east of England this sounds odd; virtually all of the unconstrained damage and destruction is caused by agricultural work, not by detectorists. Metal-detectorists alert us to this problem, but don't cause it; the catastrophic loss of archaeological deposits would go on if detecting was discouraged or banned, but we as archaeologists would be able to ignore it more easily. We should be campaigning for agricultural operations to be restrained, not simply trying to shoot the messenger.’

And John Collis volunteered the thought that: ‘Those who advocate that we should follow continental practice in dealing with metal detectorists and make all antiquities state property should consider how this actually works in practice. My experience in France shows that this does not stop the work of detectorists, and though finds found by “clandestine” work may be reported to us, we can do nothing about it as it would mean reporting the informant for acting illegally. Indeed, it is difficult even to record such finds without being accused of collaboration. Our system may not be ideal, but at least we can work with those detectorists who are interested in the wider significance of their finds.’

British Archaeology Awards

The Council for British Archaeology website has been down for the last two weeks whilst the CBA moves from its beautiful but now-cramped timber-framed building on the eastern side of York to a handsome Regency building in the west of the city, so the full and authoritative results of the British Archaeological Awards announced at the annual CBA meeting held in Belfast last week are not yet available. Nevertheless, some results have trickled through to Salon, and it is clear that Fellows were well represented in this year’s awards.

In the books section, the winner of the main prize was our Fellow James Bond for his Monastic Landcapes, praised by the award committee for its ‘exhaustive coverage and impressive geographical spread, ground-breaking in bringing this huge topic in a digestible form to a new audience, in a highly accessible language’.

Highly commended was The Celts: Origins, Myths and Inventions by our Fellow John Collis, described as ‘exceptional in its European coverage, a major work of synthesis covering the development of this subject area, written in an accessible, personal style, stimulating in its analysis of the archaeological debate and its modern political dimension’.

The Scholarly Book Prize was won by Markets in Early Medieval Europe: trading and ‘productive’ sites, 650—850, edited by Tim Pestell and Katharina Ulmschneider. The judges commended this book as ‘a model for conference proceedings publication, timely in combining the latest information from field excavation and the portable antiquities record and addressing a new subject area, putting English data into a European context’. They also commented on the ‘impressive style and quality of presentation for this (traditionally utilitarian) medium’.

Highly commended was the Catalogue of the Mesolithic and Neolithic Collections in the National Museums and Galleries of Wales by Steve Burrow, which ‘sets standards as an illustrated catalogue of archaeological collections, with an extensive synthetic introduction combined with comprehensive catalogue information — a mine of information for early British prehistory and a stimulus for further work in this field, not to mention research on other museum collections’.

Our General Secretary, David Gaimster, who was Chairman of the judging panel, commented that: ‘The competition was tough (around 290 nominations all told across both categories), standards were extremely high (and getting higher); it was almost an impossible task to select the final winners.’

Our Fellow, Andrew Fitzpatrick, has offered to provide further details of the successes of Fellows for the next issue of Salon. The ceremony was, he says, held in the elegant surrounds of Elmwood Hall on a glorious autumn afternoon. Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster Museum provided a warm welcome that was accompanied by harp music.

2004 Pitt Rivers Award

The prestigious Pitt Rivers Award for the best work carried out during the previous year by a voluntary archaeological society went to Rugby Archaeological Society in recognition of the research carried out by members of the Society at the Tripontium Bathhouse complex under the directorship of our Fellow Jack Lucas.

Kevan Fadden introduced the award at the ceremony on behalf of the Trustees of the Robert Kiln Trust, which sponsored the award. This was his citation: ‘The Pitt Rivers Award goes to Rugby Archaeological Society, which has been excavating a Roman site adjacent to the Watling Street since the early sixties. Over the years, there have been three interim reports plus numerous specialist reports. During that time many of their diggers have gone on to university and employment within archaeology. They have provided the material for an impressive exhibition in the Rugby Museum, and a smaller museum in Lutterworth. Since 1990, the Society has concentrated on a bath house site. The care taken has borne fruit in the last two years, when the full story became apparent, with some ground-breaking conclusions. The Final Report is in an advanced stage, ready for publication.’

Government to cut heritage funding

The Daily Telegraph on 16 October ran a story saying (as predicted in Salon 94) that the Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell, has plans to shake up the heritage sector and that the bodies sponsored by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport are being asked to plan for deep funding cuts. One source involved in the process is quoted as saying: ‘We do not know what she wants but it is something big.’

In fact, the Secretary of State’s intentions are not that difficult to discern, and have been made public on various occasions.

First the Government believes that the heritage sector is fissile: it wishes to merge bodies that it sees as performing similar functions and to eliminate the duplication for funding streams and bureaucracies involved in (say) English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund separately providing funds for the same project.

Second the Government has been inspired by the succesful reception of the Haskins Review — which recommended a rationalisation of the natural heritage sector (English Nature, the Countryside Commission, the Forestry Commission and others) — to consider a similar reorganisation of the built heritage sector along functional lines. One model that was being discussed earlier this year was to merge the properties management side of English Heritage with bodies such as Historic Royal Palaces and the Royal Parks to create one customer-responsive body managing all ‘state’ heritage. Those parts of English Heritage responsible for grant-giving, policy and research might then merge with the Heritage Lottery Fund and the planning side might merge with CABE, to create an integrated planning functions covering the historic and the contemporary built environment.

Thirdly, DCMS is not immune from Treasury pressure to achieve greater ‘efficiency’ — the jargon term for doing 20 per cent more per annum with 20 per cent fewer staff. DCMS is seen as a relatively soft target for cuts because it is not a department that is seen to heav an obvious impact on major Labour commitments on schools, hospitals, jobs and prosperity. The Treasury’s cost-cutting adviser, Sir Peter Gershon, has already committed the Government to cutting 90,000 civil service jobs and is said to have identified heritage bodies as an area where savings could be found.

Fourthly, there are many in the current Government who still believe that the heritage is elitist and that money spent on heritage is ‘dosh for toffs living in grand houses’. Despite the popularity of heritage television shows and evidence to show that more people visit museums than go to rock concerts or football matches, they regard heritage as backward looking and the antithesis of New Labour’s modernising agenda. They question whether heritage should receive central government funding at all, and seem unimpressed by the efforts of heritage advocates to argue that an engagement with the heritage has major social and economic benefits.

Though John Prescott is known to be an inland waterways enthusiast, few of his Cabinet colleagues have an informed interest in the heritage (despite holidays spent in Tuscany). The Telegraph comments that Ms Jowell herself has ‘yet to visit an English Heritage site’, and that she has ‘shown little interest in heritage, preferring “participation” activities such as sport and the arts’. This helps to explain why funding for English Heritage has risen by only 3 per cent in the past five years, while the arts have received 53 per cent and sport 100 per cent. Those few Labour party activists who are sympathetic to the heritage (Time Team’s Tony Robinson, for example) would like to see Ms Jowell find an imaginative way of integrating the heritage with some of Labour's other goals, such as education, tourism or urban regeneration.

With that as the background to current Government thinking, what might we expect? According to The Telegraph, the Government has already considered and rejected the idea of selling English Heritage's houses and historic monuments to the private sector or of donating them to the National Trust. It is still said to be exploring ways of merging some or all of the centrally funded heritage bodies with the Heritage Lottery Fund, which is entirely funded by lottery income. This would raise questions about the ‘additionality’ principle which says that Lottery funds should not be used to replace core government spending — but senior civil servants, special advisers and policy wonks close to the Labour party have been saying for years that heritage is not a core Government commitment, so that little sophistical problem could easily be argued away — and the Arts Council, for which Ms Jowell also has responsibility, already combines the job of promoting the arts and distributing lottery grants.

Chinese dam threatens World Heritage Site

It has been a difficult week for heritage with a swathe of newspaper stories showing how neglected, unloved, under-funded and generally abused the historic environment is. From Beijing comes the news, reported on the front page of the Independent (16 October), that China has begun building a huge new dam across the Yangtze river that will flood the Tiger Leaping Gorge World Heritage Site, condemn ancient villages with distinctive architectural styles, displace more than 100,000 people and destroy the way of life of the Miao, Yi, Bai, Lisu and Naxi minority peoples of south-western Yunnan. Chinese environmentalists have decided to make this their next major campaign, but the battle to save the gorge has pitted a David-like alliance of green groups and local tribespeople against the Goliath of the Huaneng Group, China's biggest independent power producer, working with the Yunnan provincial government. See the Independent’s website for the rest of the story.

Threats to East Sussex marshes and Hastings historic landscapes

Closer to home, East Sussex is becoming a battleground for environmentalists on two scores: on the one hand there are plans to build a wind farm, with 26 turbines, each 350 feet high, on the flat sheep-grazed meadows of the Romney Marsh, and on the other plans have been revived by East Sussex’s Conservative-controlled county council for a £47m dual carriageway to be built through the historic Combe Haven marshes (a site of special scientific interest, renowned for its migrating birds, insects and plant species) between Pevensey, where William of Normandy landed in 1066, and Battle, the site of the battle of Hastings.

The road is intended to relieve a congested seafront corridor carrying up to 32,000 vehicles a day between Hastings and its westerly neighbour, Bexhill. Alongside the road, the council has plans for a 48,000-square-metre business park on an out-of-town greenfield site and 1,100 new homes. Stephen Byers, when he was Transport Secretary, rejected a bypass around Hastings on environmental grounds three years ago. Critics claim the new plan is an attempt by the local council to construct half of the bypass by stealth, with the prospect of adding the rest of it in the future. Alastair Darling, the current Transport Secretary, is due to make a decision on the proposal by the end of the year, alongside several other contentious projects, including a scheme to widen the A303 through the Blackdown Hills in Somerset.

Souvenir hunters pillage Crimea's battlefields

The Times reported last week that war relics are being illegally dug up and sold from Crimean war battlefields, such as the Valley of Death, and sometimes even from the graves of the more than 20,000 British troops killed in that conflict.

Regimental badges and buttons, belt buckles and bayonets, coins, bullets and tobacco pipes are now being openly sold to tourists at battlefield sites where an estimated 750,000 soldiers were killed when British, French, Italian and Turkish troops fought the Russians for control of this Black Sea peninsula. Excavating the relics is, in theory, restricted to a handful of licensed local collectors. Taking them out of the country is technically illegal. In reality local people with metal detectors continue to dig for relics from the siege of Sebastopol and the battles of Alma, Balaklava and Inkerman. The Times quoted one local detectorist, who sells artefacts from a stall outside the Panorama Museum in Sevastopol, as saying: ‘The British buy the most. I don’t know how they take them out of the country, but I imagine they smuggle them in their luggage.’

Badgers threaten Bronze Age barrows

English Heritage has reported that ancient monuments on Salisbury Plain are being damaged by badgers, which are burrowing into burial mounds and disturbing human remains and artefacts. English Heritage is studying badger damage at the Barrow Clump Bronze Age site to see what badgers do inside monuments and whether they favour a particular type of deposit. Jonathan Last, an archaeologist from the English Heritage Centre for Archaeology, said: ‘We can then extrapolate which sites might be most vulnerable and decide which need protection.’

478,000 new homes in East Anglia

The Guardian reports that plans for 478,000 new homes to be built across the east of England by 2021 were agreed by the planning committee of the East of England Regional Assembly on 15 October, on condition that the Government pays for the necessary transport infrastructure and provides £600m to subsidise the construction of affordable homes for key workers. The effect will be to increase the population of the region's six counties — Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk — by 20 per cent (to 5.5 million) over the next seventeen years. Campaigners have warned that the plans will harm historic towns and threaten the environment.

However, members of the regional planning panel rejected plans to add another 18,000 houses to the Peterborough, Cambridge, Stevenage and Harlow corridor because of the potential consequences for water resources, air quality and road congestion. Members also made clear that they opposed the proposed second runways at Stansted and Luton airports.

The planning decision will now have to be ratified by the full East of England Regional Assembly before being considered by an independent planning inquiry. A final decision is expected by 2006.

Britain’s worst architecture

The RIBA has announced that it is teaming up with Channel 4 to make a four-part TV series called Demolition in which viewers will be asked to nominate contenders from all over Britain for the title of ‘Britain's worst building’ — which will then be reduced to ‘richly deserved rubble’ and replaced with ‘something better’. Apparently, the final, live night of the series will see a spectacular celebratory demolition of one of the nation's nastiest eyesores. Executive producer Nick Kent says: ‘it is about kick starting a nationwide debate about the value of architecture and empowering people to feel they can improve the quality of the built environment’. RIBA President, George Ferguson, has proposed the establishment of a grant fund, vested in English Heritage, to help identify the worst buildings in Britain, judged by popular and expert opinion to be beyond redemption, and to enable beneficial replacement.

Thames moorings can stay

Salon reported earlier this year that residents of newly constructed waterside flats in Bermondsey had challenged the legality of boat moorings around St Saviour's Dock, in the section of the river known as the Lower Pool. The moorings were created in the early nineteenth century for use by the working lighters of the Port of London. In recent years an entirely new community has developed there, consisting of converted lighters, Dutch barges, Thames sailing barges and tugs with a mixture of residential, business and industrial uses. Now a planning inspector has granted planning permission for the continued use of the moorings and has quashed two enforcement notices served by Southwark Borough Council seeking to end the use of the moorings.

The Planning Inspector, Mr Andrew D Kirby, in a report published at the beginning of September, stated that the boats ‘provide a focal point and feature of interest that is a beneficial distraction from the modern flat developments … the characteristic [of the area] is that of a nineteenth-century townscape that owes its being and essence to the presence of a navigable trading river … [the vessels] provide a maritime flavour, which has not been lost through their conversion to residential use, in a location which is close to what is arguably the historic heart of our maritime consciousness as a trading nation.’

A spokesman for the Inland Waterways Authority commented that: ‘this is an important case to have won. The decision, and in particular the Inspector's statement of his reasons, creates a crucial marker against a current trend in planning that would, if allowed to continue unchecked, reduce the London river to a sterile corridor, sanitised of its maritime communities and with its banks lined with a mono-culture of residential blocks.’

Even as one threat diminishes, however, another looms on the horizon. Following complaints and incidents involving rowing boats on the upper reaches of the tidal Thames, the Port of London Authority has commissioned an independent risk assessment into rowing on the tidal Thames between Putney and Teddington, including its impact on other recreational and commercial users — so it appears that even the continuity of such hallowed traditions as the Boat Race cannot be taken for granted any longer in our extraordinarily trammelled age.

Saving Britain's heritage trees

The Tree Council — an umbrella organisation including 150 groups dedicated to tree preservation — has launched a new book, The Heritage Trees of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, listing 100 trees that the Council wishes to see given listed status like buildings, battlefields, parks and ancient monuments. The trees all have links with some of the great events and battles of centuries past: the Martyrs' tree, where the Dorset labourers met in 1834 to form the first trade union in Tolpuddle, for example, or Newton's apple tree at Woolsthorpe Manor, Lincolnshire, where Isaac Newton is believed to have been sitting in 1665 when he formed his ideas about gravity.

Pauline Buchanan Black, the Tree Council 's director general, says that: ‘Some trees have preservation orders and some are in conservation areas, but they do not provide the sort of protection people think. Any legal shield that exists for historic trees is coincidental, not by design. Heritage trees should qualify as a form of historic monument and should be specifically protected. The government should introduce a system which will safeguard heritage trees, encourage their owners to look after them and advise on their care.’

The threat to these trees is very real: in June, vandals set fire to the Strathleven oak, one of the oldest oak trees in Scotland, which now stands on an industrial estate near Dumbarton. The fire was set in the hollow interior, which weakened the structure and caused the tree to collapse, leaving little more than a burned-out shell.

Last year, activists sought to raise the threat to heritage trees during the Government’s review of heritage protection, following the consultation paper Protecting Our Historic Environment: Making the System Work Better. But they say they received scant feedback and little indication that things will improve.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said it accepted the value of heritage trees. ‘They have a key role in the historical landscape,’ she said. ‘The question of whether they should be on the new register is being looked at by English Heritage and DCMS and no conclusion has yet been reached.’

Map thief pleads guilty

Britain’s most prolific map thief has pleaded guilty to a specimen charge of stealing fifty rare maps from the National Library of Wales, but is suspected of having plundering hundreds more maps from public collections across Britain and Europe, many of which have yet to be reported missing. Joseph Peter Bellwood, from Colchester, in Essex, a former landscape gardener, will be sentenced next week; once he has finished serving his sentence he will then be tried in Denmark for similar thefts from the Royal Library in Copenhagen. Bellwood has already served a four-year sentence for stealing hundreds of prints worth £290,000 from the British Library.

None of the maps that he has stolen has ever been recovered. Our Fellow Peter Barber, keeper of maps in the British Library, said that Bellwood ‘adopted the manner of a fuddy-duddy scholar. On his first visit he would hand in a high-value note that he claimed to have found on the floor. After that any suspicions they [library staff] might have had were stilled.’ Peter Barber added that the thefts were not discovered because ‘if a page has been expertly removed [from an atlas] it can be hard to tell it’s missing unless you are sure it was there in the first place. Many smaller institutions simply don’t know what they have.’ Like Roger Bland, FSA, who was quoted in Salon 98 as saying that illegally acquired antiquities were being traded on the eBay internet auction site, Peter Barber said that the success of eBay has made it easy for thieves like Bellwood to sell on stolen items quickly.

Current World Archaeology

Fellow Andrew Selkirk’s new(ish) magazine, Current World Archaeology, continues to keep us informed about the rich archaeological discoveries being made around the globe. Issue 7, just out, has a feature by two Fellows — Mark Brisbane and Andrew Reynolds — describing and illustrating the results of ongoing open-area excavations at the Troitsky site, just south of the kremlin in Novgorod, where the finds range from nearly a thousand letters written on birch bark dating from the late tenth to the fifteenth century, to houses of similar date with their floorboards still intact and cavity walls packed with dung and moss for insulation.

Elsewhere in the same magazine, there is a report on the excavation of Malta’s Brochtorff stone circle by Fellows Anthony Bonnano, Caroline Malone, Simon Stoddard and David Trump, aerial photographs of Jordanian archaeology from Fellow Bob Bewley’s latest book, Jordan from the Air, and a lengthy article on Aksum based on the work of our Fellow David Phillipson.

Evidence for early grain processing

Archaeologists have found strong evidence that wheat and barley were refined into cereals 23,000 years ago, suggesting that humans were processing grains long before hunter-gatherer societies developed agriculture. The findings, including the identification of the earliest known oven and hence the oldest evidence of baking, were described in a recent issue of the journal Nature. Further information at www.innovations-report.com/html/reports/agricultural_sciences/report-34132.html.

Venus found in German canal

Construction workers in the west-German city of Cologne have discovered a Roman statue of Venus during the excavation of a canal shaft. The figure, minus head and legs, is carved from Carrara marble. Professor Hansgerd Hellenkemper dates the torso to the first century AD: ‘the delicate breasts indicate this period; later they tended to have a more robust form,’ he said, adding that ‘because there were neither thermal baths nor temples in this region, we assume that the Venus graced the home of a wealthy landowner until the destruction of Cologne by the Franks in AD 355 … when the Romans recaptured the city the following year, the statue was probably used in constructing the foundation of a road’. The Venus will go on display in Cologne on 6 November.

Lincolnshire’s war god

A second-century AD finger ring has been found in Lincolnshire and handed into the Portable Antiquities Scheme. Inscribed with the letters TOT, it is one of twenty similar silver rings found over the past year. The letters are said to represent the Celtic war god Toutatis and might indicate the existence of a cult dedicated to him. Avid Asterix fans will know that Toutatis is often invoked in the French cartoon series when Gaulish tribesmen battle oppressive Roman forces.

Slave’s tombstone found in Gloucester

Five inhumations, three cremations and two round pottery vessels have been found underneath the former Esso petrol station on London Road in central Gloucester. The same excavation turned up the grave marker of a fourteen-year-old slave boy called Martialis. City archaeologist Richard Sermon said: ‘We are very excited about the tombstone. If it does turn out to be a tombstone for a slave, this is quite rare. These finds are of national importance.’ Jim Hunter, the consultant archaeologist on the project, said he believed the gravestone dates to between the first and second century AD, adding that ‘only part of the inscription survives: it appears to say that “Martialis, the slave of Cloni, died aged 14 years and lies here”.’

Solid gold mask found in Bulgaria

Novinite, the Sofia-based news agency, reports that a solid gold mask, weighing more than half a kilogram, has been found in the outskirts of Shipka Peak, near the town of Kazanlak; it is believed to represent Seutus III, the fifth- to sixth-century BC Thraccian king. The mask was unearthed by the TEMP 2004 archaeological expedition directed by Georgi Kitov. Local treasure hunters plundered nearby burial mounds as soon as the find was announced, as well as attacking the discovery site itself and vandalising archaeological equipment. Archaeologists have said that scarce finances and poor security for historic sites such as Shipka Peak mean that many more ancient gravesites in Bulgaria's ‘Valley of the Kings’ are likely to be pillaged, despite World Heritage Site status.

Alongside the mask, Kitov’s team found vessels decorated with images of Hercules, Priapus and maenads, silver chain armour, silver and bronze vessels, a sword and ‘a unique phial with grips’.

Conferences

Salon has been informed that the Wallace Collection Seminar in the History of Collecting, on ‘Collecting Sculpture for Wilton House’, which was to have been given by Malcolm Baker on 3 November 2004, will not now take place.

On 5 November 2004, the UKIC Stone and Wall Paintings Section will be hosting the second in a series of one-day symposia dedicated to the study and conservation of secular wall paintings at Carpenter’s Hall, London EC4. The symposium, entitled ‘Followers of Fashion — Renaissance wall paintings in Britain’, will focus primarily on early post-medieval decoration (c 1550—1650). Papers treating technical and art historical subjects will be complemented by presentations on recent conservation projects and associated research. The day provides an opportunity to consider the trends and relationships between wall painting traditions across the United Kingdom, and our current attitudes towards their preservation.

Registration forms can be found on the UKIC website within the Stone and Wall Paintings Section.

The Society for Post-Medieval Archaeology has virtually guaranteed a full house for its annual conference by choosing the eastern Caribbean island of Nevis as the location for its 2005 conference, to run from 27 June to 1 July.

This is the first time that the Society's Annual Conference has been held outside the British Isles. The conference programme will include two days of field visits to sites on Nevis and the nearby island of St Kitts (St Christopher), and the option of participating in a field visit to the island of St Eustatius (Statia). The timing of the conference has been chosen so as to enable delegates to attend also the meeting of the International Association of Caribbean Archaeologists, which will be held in July 2005 in Trinidad. The conference also marks the completion of a three-year project funded by the British Academy looking at the archaeology of the colonial landscape of Nevis and St Kitts.

Papers and other contributions are welcomed on the conference theme in its widest context: the archaeology of the colonial or shared landscapes of the Greater Caribbean from the late fifteenth century onwards, embracing the south-eastern coast of North America and extending to Bermuda. Specific themes will include the historical archaeology of agricultural, urban and defended landscapes, pre- and post-emancipation landscapes of plantation slavery and of industrial production, theory and method in historical landscape, colonial and post-colonial archaeology, and material culture and landscape, including the vernacular and other architecture of the peoples of the historic Caribbean. Contributors may suggest other themes.

Further details and information on likely costs and logistics are available from Bruce Williams, Bristol and Region Archaeological Services.

Southampton will be the venue on 2 to 4 September 2005 for the Fourteenth Conference of the Women’s History Network. Papers are welcomed on the themes of women and the visual arts (painting, sculpture and architecture) and the decorative arts; women and the Arts and Crafts Movement/Home Decorating; women and the performing arts; women and the literary arts; women as art objects/images of women; women as mediators of culture; and women as collectors and benefactors. Abstracts of up to 300 words should be sent by 30 March 2005 to Dr Anne Anderson, FMAS, Southampton Institute, Southampton SO14 0RF. Speakers, papers and a provisional programme will be posted at www.womenshistorynetwork.org as soon as they become available.

Horniman falls foul of internet filters

Salon’s editor feels some sympathy for the Horniman Museum in south London which, according to Maev Kennedy, the Guardian’s arts and heritage correspondent, is losing a large proportion of its emails to internet filters designed to prevent innocent eyes from encountering porn sites on the web. Worse still, visitors trying to access the museum's website ‘are being blocked or, worse, redirected to more specialist-interest sites’.

Antony Watson, a spokesman for the museum, said that its IT consultants were grappling with the problem and appealed to anyone experiencing difficulties to contact them. Director Janet Vitmayer said: ‘It is a sad sign of the times when a well-established and cherished museum cannot share its unique collections, wealth of educational resources and vibrant programme of events with the public because of technological advances that are supposed to achieve just the opposite.’

Salon has experienced a similar problem in the past; investigation tracked down the problem to a four-letter word in an article about Michelangelo’s David; that word being an anagram of 'dune', from the Latin nudus and meaning ‘bare’! Perhaps a solution to this growing problem is for all emails to be written in Latin in future.

Vacancies

Institute of Field Archaeologists (IFA), Training and Standards Co-ordinator
Salary £21,867—£30,654, closing date 1 November 2004, interviews 17 November 2004

This new post, reporting to the Head of Professional Development, will develop and implement initiatives to promote training and standards for historic environment professionals, including integrating CPD (Continuing Professional Development) with the IFA’s membership structures and procedures, developing new training initiatives, developing professional qualifications and promoting best practice. Candidates need to have experience of career development and training issues, commercial awareness and excellent communication skills. Awareness of professional practice in the historic environment and IFA membership is preferred. Further details from: IFA, SHES, PO Box 227, University of Reading, Whiteknights, Reading RG6 6AB; tel 0118 378 6446; email admin@archaeologists.net.

Victoria and Albert Museum, Senior Curator: Furniture, Textiles and Fashion
Salary £33,000 to £46,299, closing date 5 November 2004

Someone with an established reputation in the field of textile history, a publications record and curatorial experience is being sought for this post within the Department of Furniture, Textiles and Fashion. Further information is on the V&A website under ‘About the V&A’ and ‘Job Opportunities’.

The Wallace Collection, Curator of Arms and Armour
Salary c £21,000 to £24,000 per annum, closing date 12 November 2004

The arms and armour at the Wallace Collection consists of around 3,000 works of art, roughly equally divided between European and Oriental arms and armour. Arms and armour numerically accounts for around 60 per cent of the entire Wallace collection. Together the two armouries form what is generally acknowledged to be one of the most important collections of arms and armour in the world and the most important general collection in London, now that the Royal Armouries’ collections have mostly moved to Leeds.

The former Curator/Conservator of Arms and Armour at the Collection, Mr David Edge, has recently been promoted to Head of Conservation and has as a result relinquished his curatorial responsibilities, thus creating the present vacancy, whose role is to undertake research into these collections and to develop the Wallace Collection’s reputation as a centre of excellence for arms and armour scholarship, helping to promote understanding and enjoyment of this Collection and fostering and encouraging the study of the discipline. In particular there are two specific tasks: preparation for the Wallace Collection’s forthcoming exhibition, The Art of the Sword, scheduled to open in April 2006, and work towards a new catalogue of the Oriental arms and armour.

Full details of the post can be found on the Wallace Collection website.